Dec 31, 2019 | 10 min read

2019: Year in Review

Pavel Kaplunou, Marketing Communications

As we step into a new decade new and emerging software products and services are bound to shape the world. New technologies have already started doing just that and no one is to know for sure what developments will be around the corner. Chiming in to the sounds of the bells that proclaim the coming of the new year, the Smart IT C-suite proudly presents its humble compilation of events, breakthroughs and developments in the world of tech over the course of 2019.

The Future of Blockchain

The Blockchain economy is less a dream and more of a reality than some may have thought.  VP Capital and Larnabel Ventures backed Currency.com went live in closed beta at the start of the year and then finally made its debut as the first ever tokenized bond trading platform

Taking full advantage of Belarus’ Digital Economy Decree (also referred to as Decree 8), the service provides entry for private and institutional investors into traditional financial markets via crypto purchases. Users are able to take stock in government backed bonds by purchasing their tokenized digital equivalents using Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The service has received the support and clearance of several large banks in the country. It is not, however, available in the US.

Neobanks – the new face of banking

The fintech mobile app N26 has secured a name for itself, initially in Europe by becoming the first licensed European digital bank, and, more recently in the US, as one of the contenders for the title of top neobanks and financial services providers.

What started out in Germany and Austria as a financial application that would allow users to seamlessly transfer cash has since received capital and the backing of the likes of PayPal, Tencent and Allianz X. In essence, the service provider applied software development in finance to do what Spotify and Uber did for the music and transportation industries respectively. It allows to easily top up a plastic card and enjoy the benefits of commission-free money withdrawals across international ATMs.

The service’s top competitor is perhaps Nubank, which deserves a more thorough review on its own. The rival currently boasts 12 million clients services, compared to N26’s 3.5 million. However, it is the ambitions and the rapid expansion overseas of the fintech startup that make it so notable. The service currently covers a cluster of several European tech-forward countries, the UK and, since fairly recently, the US as well.

Biggest scandal of the year – WeWork

The Adam Nyman rouse ranks among the top scandals of the year, as the media did not lift its gaze off co-working space provider company WeWork for weeks on end. WeWork was a rapidly expanding global premise provider for many tech companies and startups across the globe. Until recently it was not discovered that the company was experiencing significant losses and that its founder, Mr. Nyman, had been obscuring some of the spend, which allegedly did not go far from his individual pocket.

WeWork had established over 620 brances in as many as 123 countries worldwide. Until the daring rescue by investor SoftBank, which succeeded the founder’s resignation, the company cut back on spend and bolstered its businesses in China, India and several Latin American states. The company also retains some of its prime open space estate in Russia as well. 

The business’ future remains uncertain for now as the company must deal with its 1,37 billion debt, which resulted from mismanagement and poor leadership. For now, the Kuwait-backed Knotel seems to be on the rise.

5G network propagation

At long last, 5G networks have been able to overcome the over-saturation and high-load problems plaguing the previous generation of telecommunication networks. 

The new technology distributed load by opening up the frequency spectrum, which has brought about the advantages of low latency connectivity and rocket speeds of as much as 1400 Mbps. To compare, the US average approximates at about 65 Mbps. Under the microscope, or rather an EMF meter, 5G technologies are made possible by increasing the wave frequency. This comes at a cost to wave-length, which has decreased. As a result, the ability for waves to traverse obstacles has been vastly impeded. 

If the above is not entirely comprehensible via the prism of real-life, then, to decypher, it simply means there is now a need for more 5G beamers so as to ensure sufficient coverage. The alternative is to be in close proximity to the source.

While application remains relatively restricted, the technology is said to transform small cell networks, wireless home routers, the Internet of Things, VR use in domestic and industrial use, connectivity in population-dense areas and Industry 4.0 as a whole. Meanwhile in China, work is already under way on a 6G network technology.

VR/AR

Speaking of VR, ever since 2016, the tech has mostly been about immersive gaming and raising the bar when it comes to truly interactive entertainment. Yet, it is 2019 that this technology, along with AR, expands its spectrum of application.

Throughout the year, Twitter was a-buzz with examples of VR/AR being extensively used in digital medicine and digital health app development, furthering the use of digital devices for both learning and hands-on practice. A demonstrated use case is augmented and virtual reality surgery, now FDA approved.

Too bad the fictional alter-ego of Tony Stark, Iron Man, did not make it to see his handy-work applied in real-life, but, thanks to the emerging possibilities of technology in medicine VR and AR applications at the hands of everyday ordinary  heroes are bound to be saving lives at scale in the foreseeable future.

In-browser Gaming

Console-less gaming has not exactly been devoid of media attention. The Nvidia Shield TV emerged back in 2015 and has since occupied an unexplored niche. Up until the cloud did not start getting more traction that is and new “players” did not decide to move into the space. Google Stadia launched a reasonably attractive, if, albeit, somewhat limited offering for the next generation of cloud gamers, but the reviews put the last name in the coffin of the cloud gaming industry, if at least for now.

While it did not cause the resonance that Google had hoped, it did show us one thing – subscription-based models have room to expand in the future, as do cloud-based services. With remote gaming servers, players can stream games they have purchased or rented via the internet to their television sets, tablets or phones. Predecessors like the Playstation Now service offered similar deals with a fixed cost for a rotating series of games that unlocked each month. A big competitor that also dabbled in the field was Valve’s Steam Link, which came absolutely free and allowed players to cast games they had purchased onto their TVs.

It is rumored that Facebook plans to have its swing at cloud gaming with the acquisition of Spanish game development studio, PlayGiga. Chances are though, that Microsoft might beat them to it with Project xCloud.

Second wave of Thin client adoption

Thin client hardware has come and gone, but the advent and consolidation of cloud computing have inadvertently brought on the mass-adoption of client-server infrastructure models.

Your PC might not like to be called fat, but that is exactly what it is — a fat client. It possesses local processing power thanks to its hard drive and CPU, whereas, a thin client performs the same on a centralized server. It is this server that stores all files and applications, as opposed to a hard drive inside the physical computer on or below your desk.

Thin clients have been adopted by public establishments that service large volumes of customers each day. These can range from your local public library to major transportation hubs like airports and train stations. Because the technology allows to cut costs on purchasing PCs for employees, offers fortified security and easier management options (deployment of updates and fixes on one server, as opposed to multiple machines), thin clients can still be heavily utilised by startups and companies that deal with sensitive information

Business has not sidelined this technology either. Coupled with powerful 5G networks, and maybe just some application integration consulting, thin client hardware can still have a meaningful comeback.

Drone delivery

Amazon Prime Air may have completed its first drone courier delivery back in 2016, but the service has yet to launch in 2019, despite existing beta tests. Interestingly enough, back in Belarus, another startup claims to have submitted a patent for courrier drones, while the idea was not even on Amazon’s radar. The hardware startup drafted its first business plan for a pitch to investors as far back as 2007, while hardware builds and experiments only materialised by 2013.

Among the competitors in the yet-to be industry of drone deliveries are Google’s sister company Wing, as well as companies Matternet and Zipline. The last company secured trust and funding from investors in the sum of $190 million, making it one of the newest unicorns with a $1.2 billion net worth.

Meanwhile back in Minsk, Dronex and Menu.by kicked off a full-time service for drone food delivery. Poised as an international company with global ambitions, Dronex also plans to give more attention to the local market by expanding the delivery range within city limits. 

On a side note: Menu Group also held a hackathon where Smart IT won the top prize for developing a recommendation algorithm for its restaurant aggregation and food delivery service in Belarus.

AI: Failures and Successes

The year could not have ended without AI making some noise. Big Data may have been the big buzzword of 2018, but AI definitely dominated the headlines in 2019.

AI’s achievements involved deep-learning algorithms that beats doctors at spotting lung cancer – a huge breakthrough that could be the turning point for treating cancer patients. Artificial Intelligence research company, OpenAI’s system was unleashed into the world of video gaming, where it played 10,000-years-worth of Dota 2 and then went on to beat a team of top players. Fellow AI developers from DeepMind also challenged top players in a different interactive setting, by pitting its AI system against players in fan-favorite StarCraft II.

Despite the tremendous accomplishments there are things that AI did not quite live up to. In the article by John Pavlus, FastCompany explores the shortcomings that AI still faces today and the pitfalls it has yet to overcome before achieving greatness.

Wrapping up

With everything moving at such a rapid pace, we can only hope that people will be able to bridle their ambitions for incessant growth to focus on not only making money, but also innovating the way we live and using the power of their ideas to make the world a smarter and neater place to live in. To all the folks involved in software development and tech in general, we wish you all more of those “Hell Yeah” moments that drive progress forward and make people unite. We sure enjoy them here.

The Team at Smart IT wishes its readers a fantastic start to a new decade, may it be one of peace, prosperity and discovery!

31 December 2019

WRITTEN BY

Pavel Kaplunou , Marketing Communications

Pavel is Smart IT's Marketing Communication Manager. He oversees content creation and is in charge of the official Smart IT blog. Contact Pavel to learn about potential media and content collaborations. p.kaplunou@smart-it.io

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